The Tunnel Screen Play is one of my favorite offensive weapons. Check out this podcast to learn everything you need to know about coaching the tunnel screen, and how to defend against it.
This episode is part of the deep dive series in season 8. We take one play and dissect it from every angle including origin of the play, how to run it, and how to beat it.
Part 1: Origins of the Tunnel Screen
- Don Read is recognized as making screen plays more popular in the mid-1980s at Montana. Read was a coach at Portland State, Oregon, and Oregon Tech before coming to Montana in 1986. He won the National Title at Montana in 1995 before retiring.
- Screen passes get the ball into an athlete’s hands in space. The Tunnel Screen play, which me and Andrew Coverdale call an Alley Screen, gets the ball to the outside receiver coming into the alley.
- Screens are used when teams are very good at defending the pass with hard rushing defensive linemen and fast dropping Linebackers.
Part 2: Executing the Tunnel Screen
- The tunnel screen play is designed to hit in the ‘alley’ between the force defender and the spill defenders (OLB/Safety and ILB/DL).
- You need to make sure the defensive line is going to rush and the linebackers are going to move (either rush or drop).
- The outside receiver sets up the play by taking one big step forward, then driving back straight at the Quarterback and showing his numbers.
- Blocking rules are Out-Up-In. I like to use a slot receiver to kick the corner, but you can do it with a Tight End, H-Back or even a quick releasing Tackle.
- PST: Invite an inside rush path by the defensive end, then pin him inside.
- PSG: Block for 1-count then release to kick out. Blocking rules for all releasing linemen are to look outside, up, then in. Out = force, Up = alley, In = spill defender.
- C: Block for 1-count then release to call side
- BSG: Block for 1-count then release to call side
- BST: Pass Pro, stay on it after the throw. This is the garbage defender that cleans up the play if we do not stay on him.
- RB: Flare back side.
- QB: Show pass, invite the rush for 1-count with eyes downfield (5 step drop under center, or 3 step from shotgun or pistol). Then throw the alley.
- You can get much more advanced. Run the tunnel screen to both sides by releasing all linemen, play side G/T and center to the call side, back side to a single receiver if they overload it.
- If the corner aggressively jumps the tunnel screen play, tag a “GO” onto it with the #2 receiver faking his block on the corner then releasing down the sideline.
- Use the ‘Cage Drill’ to teach your offensive line to block the play.
Part 3: Defending the Tunnel Screen
- Absolutely nothing is more important to defending screen passes than teaching your Defensive Linemen to Screen-Retrace. Work this block reaction as part of your key read drill every single day.
- Fit screen passes like you would fit a run play. Force defender makes sure it goes inside. Spill defenders make sure it stays outside. Alley defender cleans it up. Teach the Umbrella Run Fits for a simple method.
- Man coverage is your best chance for the tunnel screen play. Pattern matching can also help but pressing the #1 receiver with your corner is the way to make you tunnel screen most difficult.
- Keep your Corner in coverage! Understand run fits. The Corner is the Stay-in-Coverage defender. Alley/Tunnel Screens are part of the run package more than a pass play. If the Corner is coming up to play the #1 receiver, the fake alley screen & go is wide open for an easy touchdown.
- Umbrella Principle for an easy run fit system
- Anatomy of Screen Plays from Season 2, Episode 9 of The Football Coaching Podcast
- How to Defend Screen Plays in the 33 Stack Defense on Season 2, Episode 10 of The Football Coaching Podcast. The rules apply to any defense.
- Andrew Coverdale’s PowerPoint on the Alley Screen Play.